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The Cape Party has stated its intention to charge Dean Hutton, infamous artist of the controversial ‘Fuck White People’ artwork, for hate speech. They said that they will be submitting papers to the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on the 25th of January.

“We will request the court to declare the offensive piece as hate speech (and to) order its removal from the public gallery,” Jack Miller, leader of the Cape Party, told News24.

This follows a physical attack on the piece at the National Art Museum in Cape Town. The video posted by the Cape Party on the 17th of January, shows Cape Party members placing a sticker stating “Love Thy Neighbour” over the artwork. This was followed by Jack Miller calling for an end to racism. Gallery guards half-heartedly confronted the group, but were restrained and blocked long enough for the sticker to be placed.

Dean Hutton, the artist, stated that criminal charges will be laid against the members of the Cape Party. A typical public discussion has been scheduled for the 16th of February over the exhibition and the topic of race that it is meant to inspire.

The act is vandalism by definition. The sticker will, as the cameraman states, damage the artwork. Any supporter of private property rights has to condemn the act. This does not mean support for the artist and the artwork, however.

Dean Hutton, the artist
Dean Hutton, the artist

Personally, I have great distaste for uncreative, intentionally-controversial art that is merely provocative and not truly thought-provoking. Art is not meant to be merely sensationalist. It is meant to tie together creativity with thought-provoking content. This piece is distasteful, indicating no technical artistic skill and only acting as a taunt towards sensitive members in society – not making them think, merely making them angry.

But distaste is aesthetic. It isn’t meant to be ethical. The lack of artistic merit in this piece does not justify its vandalism. The piece is owned by a private individual, and thus protected by the principles of liberty we hold dear. The Cape Party was out of line in attacking it in this matter.

In addition, the charge of hate speech is inappropriate in terms of definition. Hate speech is, by definition, a direct call for violent action. This is insulting, but isn’t hate speech. The proposed Hate Speech Bill cannot, and will not, change the actual definition of hate speech. Ridicule and offence isn’t just cause for attacking private property. If you believe that, then you become as bad as the hateful left.

The call by the Cape Party seems more a statement to highlight the hypocrisy in our society, however. Jack Miller has stated that he wants Hutton to be fined R150 000, the same amount as Penny Sparrow. If the intention of this accusation is to highlight the hypocrisy of punishing whites for pseudo-hate speech and not anti-white pseudo-hate speech, then I am pro the act. While the Cape Party must also face criminal charges for vandalism, our society must face the fact that many people are unfairly treated by the law in terms of speech.

What needs to be fundamentally remembered is that private property rights are important.

The Cape Party members involved must be brought to justice for vandalising a private artwork and for the assault hugs levelled at the guards. What we must also remember is that Dean Hutton’s work is antagonistic. It doesn’t deserve a defence for its own merit, but rather only due to our inherent right to freedom of speech and private property. Rather, the Cape Party should have only levelled the hate speech accusation (to highlight societies hypocrisy) and sought other means of getting the artwork removed.

The physical attack comes off as merely a publicity stunt, which I understand the need for a political party to undertake, but is still just as distasteful as the artwork they protest.

  • C2H5OH

    If copying and pasting three words a hundred times and pressing print is art, I’m Picasso.

  • T’challa

    “our society must face the fact that many people are unfairly treated by the law in terms of speech.”

    fair enough.

    But can we just admit that if we’re talking about racial bias within the criminal justice system, the speech issue is an outlier.

    Certain groups are more harshly treated when it comes to racially charged speech, yes true, but when we look at the criminal justice system as a whole then this is the exception, not the rule.

    Those same groups get away with community service where other groups would get life behind bars. Especially when we still have judges like Mabel Jansen on the bench.

    Good Article tho.

  • Steven van Staden

    Thanks for taking this up. I don’t think many will disagree with your points.

    In my opinion, the racial double standards and hypocrisy becoming entrenched in public perception and in the application of the law are more offensive and ominous than the overt racism conveyed by the reiterated words “Fuck White People.” In the media and in the application of the law we are seeing a more rigid stance on White on Black racism, while Black on White racism appears to be eschewed even when the latter is far more threatening, presumably because Whites do not have a history of rioting and destroying property when insulted or provoked. No one needs reminding of the routine damage to property and artworks by Black rioters who are largely seen to be above the law (perhaps for the same reason). The unfairness and danger of this perceived trend continuing is obvious.

    There’s a perceived increase in overt racial friction in South Africa and internationally. Evidence seems to show that this is being contrived by numbers of people who are not representative of the majorities of their groups. It can hardly be denied that this slogan (for that is all it is) exacerbates this threatening trend. It certainly has an inculcatory calculation if nothing else. For that reason I believe the artist should be dealt with appropriately by the law.

    Secondly, I have seen no commentary on why the National Art Museum chose to condone the display of this racially insulting excuse for art. It wouldn’t do for a gallery to be arbiters of taste – I think readers of RS are likely to agree on the importance of freedom of expression – but surely racist sloganeering is doubly unworthy of a reputable gallery.

    On a lighter note, those who pasted a slogan “love they neighbour” on the original offensive canvas have possibly created a great artwork, perhaps a masterpiece of its kind, with an interesting provence attached. If anyone here is an art investor, perhaps now is the time to buy this amended canvas which can only increase in value after the court cases.

  • Gillian Benade

    Ars longa vita brevis…

    • Steven van Staden

      Res ipsa loquitor …

      • Gillian Benade

        I find the whole thing silly in the extreme. I have seen far better graffitti on the back of bathroom stalls. A naartjie in our sosatie.